Finding Security in This Troubled World

Woolwich-attack

So anyway, I’m sure that most people will be waking to the news of the incident in the UK. Another tragic and violent end and of course its the fruit of sin, hatred and ultimately the devil, for he was a murderer from the beginning. Adding to this was the stabbing of the Essendon Footballer Nathan Lovett-Murray

On a practical note, I don’t even know how these incidents happened or why they happened at least from the perspective of the people who felt inspired to such acts. At one time I practiced security for a short while and one thing I learnt clearly was that any sharp bladed instrument is extremely dangerous and most people underestimate this fact. These things can be concealed easily (palming the knife or hiding hands behind the body in a pocket, jacket under a table etc) and produced in milliseconds to cause lifelong injury, disablement or death. They have a range, usually close and attackers will use various methods to get close to the victim. Talking, asking a question, pointing to something to move your eyes off them etc, the list is long, sometimes its as simple as rushing a victim with weapons waving in order to create a freeze reaction. Jeff Thompson aptly described these methods as the 4 D’s Dialogue, Deception, Distraction and their ultimate goal, Destruction. Ironically these Machiavellian tactics could also said to be true of the ways of Satan himself!

So this recent sermon from GTY is timely.

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There’s an elevated anxiety about that. Parents are struggling wondering what kind of world their children are going to awaken to in another five years, ten years, or so. There are people who are wondering whether they should have children.

Christians have become public enemy number one

We also are facing the fact that in our lifetime this is the first time that true Christians have become public enemy number one. And the system is coming at us with a fierceness. Never in the history of the world have we been exposed to as much trouble as today. Oh, there’s always been trouble. In Job it says, “Man is born unto trouble as the sparks fly upward.” Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation.” There’s always been trouble. But we never had to deal with so much of it in the past, meaning men, people, humans. But now in this media-saturated age, we have to take on everybody’s troubles, down to the minutest detail.

It used to be that the trouble you knew was the trouble you experienced. The trouble you knew was the trouble you saw. The trouble you knew was the trouble that somebody told you about. Or maybe when print came in, the trouble you read about. Now we have to carry all the troubles of the whole world in detail. It’s more than a heart can bear, and it intimidates, and it frightens, and it creates anxiety and fear

Life on a dangerous planet as described in scripture

Now all this should be no surprise to Christians because we understand that this is what the Bible promises. Job 14:1, Job said, “Man who is born of woman, short lived, full of trouble.” Psalm 22:11, David says to God, “Be not far from me for trouble is near.” Isaiah 8:22, Isaiah declared, “Look to the earth and behold distress and darkness and the gloom of anguish.” That’s life on a dangerous planet.

Solomon hated life

Solomon in the second chapter of Ecclesiastes said, “I hated life.” “I hated life.” The richest man in the world and the wisest man. “I hated life for the work which had been done under the sun was grievous to me because everything is futility and striving after wind because all of a man’s days, his task is painful and grievous and even at night his mind does not rest. I hated life.”

Gods in control

But God is in control of this planet. We read in Psalm 96, and I read that because of its connection to this. We read that the sea can rejoice, the planet can praise, the trees can sing for joy because they are under the control of their Creator. This world as we know it, this planet as we know it, this natural ecosystem as we know it, isn’t going anywhere until God comes to bring it to an end. He alone created it. He alone will end it. It is in God’s control.

Or Isaiah 46, “My purpose will be established, I will accomplish all my good pleasure. Truly I have spoken. Truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it. Surely I will do it.” And then Amos bores down on that broad reality in Amos 3:6, “If a calamity occurs in a city, has not the Lord done it?” God not only is in control of the trouble, but He is in the trouble, doing His will, fulfilling His purpose.

It is also true not only that God controls the trouble and God is in the trouble effecting His will, but we do not necessarily know the will of God because it is hidden. Be confident that God is in the trouble but don’t necessarily expect to know what He’s doing. Isaiah 45:15 gives us a very important principle. It says this: “Truly You are a God who hides Yourself.” “You are a God who hides Yourself.” The specific purposes of God are not known.

The Bible tells us only what we need to know and God determines that. And most of the trouble that we experience in the world, God remains hidden and silent

In John 15, in the Upper Room, Jesus told His disciples, “They hated Me, they’ll hate you. They persecuted Me, they’ll persecute you.”

But let’s bore down into one specific category of trouble, persecution…

And James gives us a hint of that. “Count it all joy when you fall into various trials because they have a perfecting work.” They wean you from the world. They burn the dross out of your life. They drive you to prayer. They drive you to dependence on God. They make you able to comfort others in their trouble. There are lots of things that are the effects, the positive spiritual benefits of trouble.

Specific Trouble

But let’s bore down into one specific category of trouble, persecution…

In John 15, in the Upper Room, Jesus told His disciples, “They hated Me, they’ll hate you. They persecuted Me, they’ll persecute you.”

To understand how to deal with this persecution kind of trouble, turn in your Bible to 1 Peter 3.

Jews inability to assimilate caused their persecution

You know, it was the history of Europe that culminated in the horrors of the massacre of the Jewish people both by Stalin and Adolf Hitler. And when you look back and dig down a little bit into why that happened, that all began to happen because of the Jews’ inability to assimilate. And there’s much literature that’s been written on the fact that the Jews were always a nation within a nation, and they had these quirky kind of cultural identifying marks. They had a different kind of diet, a different kind of dress.

They were fastidious about their laws and their traditions. And they ended up always being a nation within a nation. And for that they were feared, they were seen as a threat–they didn’t integrate, they didn’t amalgamate and, of course, they were doing everything they could to preserve their own ethic identity, not knowing that God was in that preservation till they would eventually be saved and acknowledged their Messiah yet to come in the future. But it was that growing hatred and animosity and fear and the unknown element of this nation within a nation that led to the hostility that broke out in World War II and massacred millions of them. The world turns on those that it can’t absorb

Here we are, people who belong to God surrounded by people who belong to the devil. Here we are priests of God, rubbing shoulders with priests of the kingdom of darkness. And consequently,

Peter says in verse 11, you are “aliens and strangers,” you are “aliens and strangers.”

It would be one thing if we could fight the enemy, but we have to convert the enemy to our side.

But to make it even more difficult, we–back to verse 9–are who we are in the world so that “we may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

…because our purpose for being here is evangelistic. In the future after the Rapture of the church, angels during the time of the Tribulation will preach the gospel in the sky. But until then, it’s us

How do we do that?

Peter says, verse 13, “Who is there to harm you if you prove zealous for what is good?”…

This is just axiomatic, proverbial, a self-evident truth. People have a hard time hurting those that are good. It’s difficult. It’s unusual for folks who are hostile to mistreat people who are passionate about doing good.

…that Peter says, and these are again just very basic. You need not only a passion for goodness, but a willingness to suffer, a willingness to suffer because in verse 14 he introduces this: “But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed.”

Christ’s example

Go back to chapter 2, verse 21

“You’ve been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who when He suffered committed no sin, nor deceit was found in His mouth. When he was reviled, he didn’t revile in return. When He suffered He uttered no threats. He kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteousness.”

Now that’s the example.

Christ’s death, of course, was an actual atonement. It was redemptive, but it was also exemplary. He not only died in our place, bearing the punishment of God for our sins, but He showed us how to suffer unjustly. He gave us an example. Don’t get angry, don’t get hostile, don’t become vengeful, commit yourself to God, utter no threats, and you’re blessed.

What does it mean “you are blessed?

What does it mean “you are blessed?” Well, it’s not so much happy as highly privileged. First of all, because you’re suffering for Christ. Like Paul said, “I bear in my body the marks of Christ.” What an honor to take the blows meant for Him. You know, when they persecute you, they’re really not after you; they don’t know you. And you’re not that important; neither am I. But when they come after us, who are they coming after? They’re coming after Christ. It’s Christ they hate. And we’re bearing in our bodies the marks of Christ. What an honor. What a privilege to take the blows meant for Him.

…but also you’re going to be blessed in eternity because you’re going to be receiving a reward. How do I know that? Because that’s one of the earliest things we have in the New Testament, the words of our Lord Jesus in the great Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:10: “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you, falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad for your reward in heaven is great.” And then He adds this wonderful statement: “In the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

And the end of verse 14, “And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled.”

Literally in the original language it says, “Do not fear their fear,” “do not fear their fear,” or the fear they try to get you to fear. Don’t fear their making you afraid. Don’t fear them. Don’t be troubled. Face it with courage.

John Bunyan

John Bunyan was in the Bedford jail, and that’s where he wrote Pilgrim’s Progress and could have walked out any day he recanted the gospel. He never would do that even though he had a wife and children. He said it would be…it would make of his conscience a slaughterhouse to do that. This is what he wrote when he was in prison: “This prison very sweet to me has been since I came here and so would also hanging be if Thou didst then appear.”

…a third perspective that secures us. It is necessary to have a passion for goodness and a willingness to suffer, and thirdly, it’s necessary to have a focus on Christ, focus on Christ, verse 15. “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts.”

Regard the Lord as Holy

By the way, that verse in the middle of verse 14, the last part, “And do not fear their intimidation and do not be troubled,” comes from Isaiah 8:13. Peter quotes from Isaiah 8:13 right there. But there’s a second half to Isaiah 8:13 that Peter doesn’t give, but he paraphrases in verse 15. When he says, “Sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts,” Isaiah actually said, “It is the Lord whom you should regard as holy.” So that’s a paraphrase of the back half of Isaiah 8:13. So instead of being intimidated by enemies, simply regard as holy the Lord. It’s kind of like casting all your care on Him, “in all your ways acknowledge Him, He’ll direct your paths, commit your way unto the Lord,” from Proverbs.

Make a defence

Peter says, “Whenever you have to defend what you believe, whenever you have to defend why you live the way you live, whenever you have to defend why you follow the Word of God, submit to the lordship of Christ, why do you acknowledge Him as the sovereign of your life, why you follow the prescriptions of the Bible, why you restrict your living to those things which are allowed in the Bible and you stay away from those things that are disallowed? Why do you live that way? Go ahead and make a defense.”

The word for “defense” is apologia, an apologetic. That word, by the way, can refer to a formal or an informal defense.

Have a pure conscience

…one final and very important reality. If you want to secure yourself in the midst of persecution, have a pure conscience, a pure conscience. And this is in verse 16. “Keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.”

Paul’s clear conscience

You know, it’s kind of like people will try to make you feel bad, make you feel guilty. But if your conscience is clear, they can’t succeed. I always go back to 1 Corinthians…2 Corinthians where the critics had just shredded Paul’s reputation in the Corinthian church, and I believe they were demonic and they were very successful with supernatural power.

And Paul writes a letter and basically says, “I have a clear conscience,” “I have a clear conscience.” Horrible things have been said about me; lies have been propagated about me. I have a clear conscience. My conscience is not accusing me. That is the ultimate earthly court in the life of an individual. Romans 2 says, “Conscience is a device that either excuses you or accuses you.” It either validates your behavior as consistent with truth, or invalidates it as inconsistent with truth. Live with a clear conscience so that your conscience doesn’t condemn you. And when it doesn’t condemn you, you can take whatever comes and you can be calm, at ease, at peace, and even experience joy. And when your enemies see that in you, when they come at you and slander you and revile your good behavior in Christ, they end up feeling shameful. This is like heaping coals of fire on your enemies’ heads.

The full sermon can be viewed here at Grace to you.

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